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Friday, 13 October, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Oct 06, 07:51 PM

dannatt1_203.jpgThe aftershocks from the comments from Sir Richard Dannatt; our diplomatic editor Mark Urban has been in Basra with British troops examining the very question that the Army's top general has raised: whether the British presence exacerbates violence.

We hear from the senior Iraqi officer who says the security situation would actually be better if the British were not on the streets in contact with the civilian population, and from the British commander who admits that every day since the liberation of Iraq, consent for the British presence has gradually waned.

All of this raises an interesting question. If this is what the troops on the ground know, and Sir Richard has had the courage to say, are British troops really in southern Iraq now not to provide security but to provide some kind of political solidarity with President Bush, who is facing some very difficult elections within the next few weeks?

Comment on Friday's programme here.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:29 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

Just had a thought that what Sir Richard Dannatt has done is launch what is a hit and run raid against a superior enemy -the political boglands of Westminster and then withdrawn. He could not stand his ground openly or he would have being dismissed and the most important thing he must do is keep his force intact -ie himself.

Isnt this a military tactic when engaging a superior force and on unfavorourable terrain -political land and has an added piquancy in that its the same tactic currently being employed against our forces which Sir Richard is now employing to protect them.

I think the message needs to be continually re-played by the media, that Sir Richard meant every word he said and we need to take heed of this, even if he cannot readily confirm this when paraded by his captors -if that is the right analogy. He has said as much as he could, in a way that he could and now our country needs to respond to his remarks -to restore some sort of stability to the middle east and save our troops lives.

It must be recognised and the reasons why Sir Richard will not be able to publicly repeat these remarks, but he and his colleagues will be thinking them every day. Perhaps the role the media can play is to ask him on a regular basis if he has changed his position.

He must on no accounts resign, it is his duty to stay where he is. He is the very best friend our troops have. On the other hand goodness knows to whose tune our Prime minister is dancing to and why.

best wishes

Bob Goodall
former press officer St Albans Stop the War coalition

  • 2.
  • At 08:50 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Rick B wrote:

How come this story http://www.pendletoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=8&ArticleID=1806619

about a "record haul of chemicals used in making home-made bombs" seems to have been ignored by the national media? Could it be that the culprits weren't muslim?

Cut the crap and bring them back

  • 4.
  • At 11:15 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Brian Johnston wrote:

Have just watched your story about Iraq which, as much as was trying to sound positive, was dwarfed by the words of those in command in the G.B.saying it might be time for the lads to come home.This is not my gripe.

There has been a war going on for a bit longer, where more soldires have lost their lives, yet is covered less and less. Are we forgetting about Afghan.

I watched with interest your feature tonight but could not help but think about the people we are sending out to Afghan literally on a daily basis.

Send your reporters out there to talk to our souls out there, then you will have a story. Surely we should concentrate on the wars we are still fighting, and not necessarily winning, rather than those we are still sending people to.

Final thought, has Afghan become a silent war? Maybe that is the one we should be talking about.

Appologies for the bad spelling but no-one can fix dyslexia, buy I was just compelled to type, maybe Britain should realise that we can no longer fix the world

  • 5.
  • At 11:28 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

Jeremy Paxman and Newsnight completely vindicated by todays developments and Mark Urban's report. I refer to the baseless and nonsensical accusations levelled by some following JP's interview with Sir Humphrey Appleby from the Military Academy the other night. By the way, do we really need Newsnight Review? Shouldn't this be a separate program?

  • 6.
  • At 11:53 PM on 13 Oct 2006,
  • Roy Baker wrote:

Sorry missed the programme but it was obviously the usual anti-war point of view (with a brilliant bit of forward planning blah blah blah). Where is the balance? There is no story here it is all fiction, how many times does this General have to say "read my lips"? The BBC does itself no credit by reporting what people say out of context.

Would the world be a better place if the US had not opposed Communism? Yes it's easy to blag on about Vietnam, not so easy to acknowledge the debt we owe. Life isn't black and white, it's bloody complicated.

  • 7.
  • At 12:32 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Rob Yaker wrote:

Roy Baker: Why do you think being pro-war serves any goal other than swelling Royal Ordinances profits?

I am flabberghasted at your anti-anti-war stance

"You are DU shell-ing You are DU shell-ing"

"Burning peoples flesh with White Phos-phor-us"

Sorry, thought you might need some pro-war footie chants

  • 8.
  • At 07:32 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

Some would say... Don't be misled by an apparent innocent gaffe , unwittingly fronted by a trusted 4 star General who is stating some unpalatable facts & sticking up for his troops. It could be in reality a well organised strategy by political spooks. Blair has today re-arranged those words to suit his & the Bush public policy stating he agrees with the General!....& surely no one seriously doubts that the politicians/spooks could have stopped this chatter days ago if they had so wished...
It would be naive to suppose Blair & Bush are not looking for an robust exit from Iraq whilst not seeming to weaken their foreign policies & any resolves to stay until the job is done .These public utterances by The Chief Of Staff have/will encourage new discussions & hints deliverance of a fully Democratic Iraq , enabling a hastened exit which will be very acceptable to all,thus also helping the Bush US mid term elections & helping soften the damage done to Blair's Legacy....I think!
Conspiracy theories are rubbish they would say...maybe so, but I wonder!

  • 9.
  • At 08:25 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

Some would say... Don't be misled by an apparent innocent gaffe , unwittingly fronted by a trusted 4 star General who is stating some unpalatable facts & sticking up for his troops. It could be in reality a well organised strategy by political spooks. Blair has today re-arranged those words to suit his & the Bush public policy stating he agrees with the General!....& surely no one seriously doubts that the politicians/spooks could have stopped this chatter days ago if they had so wished...
It would be naive to suppose Blair & Bush are not looking for an robust exit from Iraq whilst not seeming to weaken their foreign policies & any resolves to stay until the job is done .These public utterances by The Chief Of Staff have/will encourage new discussions & hints deliverance of a fully Democratic Iraq , enabling a hastened exit which will be very acceptable to all,thus also helping the Bush US mid term elections & helping soften the damage done to Blair's Legacy....I think!
Conspiracy theories are rubbish they would say...maybe so, but I wonder!

  • 10.
  • At 09:21 AM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • Rick B wrote:

Roy Baker - you're commenting on a programme you didn't even watch and then posing strawman questions on a different issue. That's not a very convincing way to conduct a debate.

  • 11.
  • At 05:58 PM on 14 Oct 2006,
  • J White wrote:

The answer to your last question is sadly yes. Fortunately , Sir Richard is putting the physical , moral and psychological welfare of the British military first before the concept of a special relationship; and the criterion by which he upholds this integrity is the axis of truth, where silent attitude is not an option . I admire him immensely.

  • 12.
  • At 11:22 PM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Excellent reports from Iraq, but didn't you rather let slip between your fingers the other side of Sir Richard's interview story? The side the PM omitted to say he agreed with, the side Mike Gapes MP partially condemned and said was a matter for the government? The aspect of the head of army's beliefs and priorities that the PM must have anticipated when he made the appointment of a strong Xtian to the post. Not the first strong Xtian he has appointed to sensitive positions.

Here we had the man who might run the country if there was a coup, or martial law (and he was certainly talking up a split in interests between army and civilians), saying "the decline in Christian values in Britain that has allowed Islamic extremism to flourish". That isn't a scenario I recognise. I for one would not welcome strong Xtian values being imposed to counter anything.

The original Daily Mail interview ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=410175&in_page_id=1770 ) also has him saying: "We can't wish the Islamist challenge to our society away and I believe that the Army, both in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably wherever we go next, is fighting the foreign dimension of the challenge to our accepted way of life.

"We need to face up to the Islamist threat, to those who act in the name of Islam and in a perverted way try to impose Islam by force on societies that do not wish it. In the Cold War, the threats to this country were about armies rolling in. Threats now are not territorial but to the values of our country.

"In the Army we place a lot of store by the values we espouse. What I would hate is for the Army to be maintaining a set of values that were not reflected in our society at large — courage, loyalty, integrity, respect for others; these are critical things.

"I think it is important as an Army entrusted with using lethal force that we do maintain high values and that there is a moral dimension to that and a spiritual dimension.

"When I see the Islamist threat I hope it doesn't make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country. Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind.

"There is an element of the moral compass spinning. I am responsible for the Army, to make sure that its moral compass is well aligned and that we live by what we believe in.

"It is said we live in a post-Christian society. I think that is a great shame. The Judaic-Christian tradition has underpinned British society. It underpins the British Army."

And there was I thinking that secular liberal democracy now underpinned British society.

  • 13.
  • At 11:55 PM on 15 Oct 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

At the very same time as the head of the army disregards that a secular liberal democracy without overpowering Judeo-Christian values is a valid and stable way for this country to be, he advocates abandoning any intention that Iraq should have a liberal democracy (to quote his Daily Mail interview):

"The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro-West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East.

"That was the hope. Whether that was a sensible or naïve hope, history will judge. I don't think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."

I note, in Newsnight's studio interview with Mike Gapes, the Labour head of the Foreign Affairs Standing Committee at Westminster, there was this exchange:

NN: "We're not going to have a liberal democracy in iraq."

MG: "No, but we've got a democratically elected parliament and government who are at this moment implementing a new constitution, which is a federal constitution for Iraq, whereby the Kurds and the Shia, who were both absolutely suppressed under Saddam will be able to govern themselves to a very large extent. and I think that in itself is very significant political progress."

This seems an astounding acceptance of the loss of rights for women and girls, for sexual minorities, for those of minority faiths and none, loses of many choices and civil liberties for all Iraqis, not least to go safely to any school, to dance, to drink, to hear any music one wishes.

That may now be the only option, but if we abandon Iraq to something less than a liberal democracy we should at least be displaying a lot of contrition, and making fulsome arrangements for the human victims of our failure.

For all Saddam's faults, especially before the US engineered UN sanctions, Iraq under his thumb was a secular state, a place of education, of welfare, healthcare, and something like equal opportunites for women, of all sects and none. The downside was violently zero tolerance for sectarianism, and some very persuasive political exiles. The prospect presently is of a country governed by the rules of religious sects. It is all too predictable that some people will be - are already being - the victims of that, in comparison to life before the US and UK kicked in the door.

I would suggest that, at the least, those arrangements should include political refuge, with free transport out of Iraq, for any secularist, woman or girl, member of a sexual minority, or likely victim of any of the sectarian militias who asks, for years to come.

  • 14.
  • At 12:18 PM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • Alex wrote:

" By theSir Humphrey Appleby from the Military Academy the other night. By the way, do we really need Newsnight Review? Shouldn't this be a separate program? "

It used to be. It was called The Late Show. The Late Review, and then it became Newsnight Review (The Kirsty Wark Review would have been too obvious.)

It used to be hosted by Mark Lawson, Sarah Dunant, Michael Ignatieff, etc. There even used to be a time when it was on EVERY DAY.

This show has been going on for the better part of two decades.

  • 15.
  • At 05:13 AM on 18 Nov 2006,
  • innocent wrote:

suddaness goverment should accept the new peace deal proposed by un so as to protect the civilian population from unjustify killing if the au are not capable for the tasks.

I feel like an empty room, but eh. Nothing seems worth doing. I haven't gotten much done today.

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